Is That Hypocrisy I Smell?

Fresh from being unreachable by the press during the Saturday rally/protest in Bedford, county DA Bill Higgins carefully read Sunday’s newspaper coverage of the protest before coming up with his tactical response, finally figured out something to say, quote, “reached out to the Mirror Sunday in an email after coverage of the rally noted he was unavailable. A message left at Higgins’ cellphone was not returned Saturday afternoon.”

I don’t blame the guy for ducking the media until he figured out his response.  It’s just that the awaited response is so damn weak.  From the Altoona Mirror (Making it happen for you!  Unless you aren’t a subscriber, then pay wall!)

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said in an email that he is a “tireless advocate” for giving youth second chances, but much of the discussion on a high-profile desecration case has left out the voice of the religious group that was affected by a teen’s alleged actions.

“Love, Inc. has a right to practice their faith unmolested, and as District Attorney I have an obligation to see to it that their rights are respected,” Higgins said.

They do have that right.  And if anyone actually molests a member of Love, Inc. while they are trying to practice their faith, I will be back on that street corner in Bedford with more signs defending their rights.  Are we really supposed to believe that this kid snapping a picture with their statue, a picture that no one even knew existed until someone saw it on Facebook and immediately went into maximum pearl clutching mode, in any way infringes on their rights to worship as they believe?  It’s a picture, Bill.  No actual damage was done to the statue.  It is still there.  Right beside the road.  In fact, I stopped by the statue the other morning for an exclusive interview with a statue of kneeling Jesus.  You see, that is now the actual one voice left out of this story.  What about the poor statue?

Foster Disbelief: Good morning, Mr. H. Christ.  My name is Foster Disbelief, though you can call me JR.  How are you feeling today?

Statue of Jesus: ……….

FD: I came out here today to ask you a few questions about your recent desecration.  Are you feeling up to it?

Statue: ………….

FD: Right.  No need to stand up, just stay right there as you are.   Okay, so do many people take pictures with you?

Statue:  ………….

FD: You’re right, there’s no need to beat around the bush with small talk.  You’re a tough one, Statue Jesus.  What were your thoughts when this teen was posing with you in that position, miming either receiving oral sex from you, or getting electrocuted with your holy power upon laying his hands upon your head?

Statue: ………..

FD: Caught you off guard there, didn’t I?  Didn’t expect someone to come up with an alternative description for that pose?  Why are all these people immediately assuming he was pantomiming oral sodomy?  Filthy, gutter bound minds?

Statue: ……….

FD:  Yeah, I know he really was posing like he was about to fuck your face.  That’s not the point.  The point is, it is a still picture, a snapshot, and it’s easy to get the wrong impression from an out of context picture.  But I want to talk about your feelings.  How horrible did his actions make you feel?

Statue:  …………

FD: Mmmm.  Was this the first time anyone used you like that?

Statue: ……….

FD: Did you enjoy it?

Statue: ………..

FD: Some people have been saying that you were asking for it.  Okay, not really some people, one person.  Okay, it was me.  I’m claiming that you were asking for it.  The only time that phrase has ever been used legitimately in the history of the world when referring to sexual assault.  Were you?

Statue:  …………

FD: Did this teen and his picture in anyway limit your free expression of religion?

Statue:  ………….

FD: If you didn’t want to talk, you could have just refused the interview.  Seriously, I can’t believe I drove out here for that.

Statue: ……………….

It was a picture, Bill.  Taken at a statue that is approachable by the public.  Fully clothed.  Harmed no one.  Violated zero rights.  Well, other than the imagined right to not be offended, but that seriously isn’t a real right, Bill.  Moving on……

Higgins stressed that, despite reports, the boy “will, in all likelihood, be placed into a diversionary program, perform a few hours of community service, answer to a probation officer for a few months and end up with no criminal record whatsoever.”

Not.  The.  Point.

You can suggest whatever sentence you feel like, Bill, but if he gets in front of an offended Judge who’s been having a bad day, he could still sit in juvie for 2 years.  But that’s not the point either.   If the punishment was a five dollar fine, suspended, I’d still think it was too harsh.  Because either the law, or your interpretation of it, are unconstitutional.  His Facebook picture was no more offensive than one of the signs I brought to Bedford.  (You should have seen the one I left in the car*.)    His picture and my sign caused the same amount of actual harm.  Both are legal.  Your interpretation of this law is turning it into a blasphemy law.  Even you have to know that blasphemy laws are unconstitutional.  You are the county DA.  I’m assuming law school was somewhere in there.

He also noted that many who are speaking out against his decision to charge the teenager have taken to attacking his character.

At Saturday’s rally, Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen said Higgins “sounds more like a talk show host” than an attorney.

“My motivations in prosecuting this case are based solely on the law,” Higgins said.

“Personal attacks and character assassination directed at me and my family are unproductive, unwarranted and, quite frankly, and I will not respond to them in any way, shape or form.”

Oh, this is my personal favorite part of his reply.  Remember this Facebook comment from our good friend Bill, when this story first started?

“I guess I should take solace in the fact that the liberals are mad at me – again,” Higgins said Thursday on his Facebook page. “As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

Based solely on the law.? Check.  Personal attacks and character assassination is unproductive and unwarranted?  Check.

When this story started, your first action was to pander to the GOP base.  You don’t get to pretend you are above the fray now that people are actually paying attention.

I’d ask how these people get elected, but I live in the area, so I unfortunately know.


*Jesus Christ: Super Bukkake Star  With image.  But there were kids there, and I wasn’t going to put their parents in the position to have to explain that one to them.

I’m Too Pissed to Come Up With a Witty Headline

There is so much wrong with this story that I don’t even know where to begin.  (Since the Altoona Mirror is now online for subscribers only, the link may not work, but I’ll be quoting much of the story below.)  Death threats, the “press” overstepping its bounds, the police trolling Facebook for “criminal” activity, and a stupid teenager.  Yep, this story has it all.  If it came out of a theocracy, it would be just one more thought crime out of many, but this took place in the United States, in Pennsylvania, in a town not far from my home.

An Everett teenager faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly “desecrating” a statue of Jesus outside a religious center in his hometown, an act that drew violent threats online.

Now I know what is going through your minds right now.  “He desecrated a religious statue, why did Foster put “criminal” in quotes?  That is a real crime.”  Stay with me for a minute, let me describe the “desecration” for you.  Any guesses?  Do you think he painted a pentagram and “666” on the statue?  Toppled it over, perhaps?  Smeared it with feces?  Maybe he dressed up a statue of the Virgin Mary in Victoria’s Secret products?  Make sure you use a number 2 pencil for your answers, and…………..pencils down!

In a report issued Tuesday, state police said the 14-year-old boy posted photographs of the desecration on the Internet. Photos on his Facebook page dating to July appear to show the boy standing over a statue of a kneeling Jesus, simulating a sex act.

If someone has the ACLU on speed dial, give them a ring.  This kid needs a good lawyer.  Yeah, you read right.  He didn’t vandalize the statue in any way.  He did no physical harm to the statue at all.  He took a picture of himself in front of the statue so it looked like Jesus was giving him a hummer.  How the fuck is that criminal?  That isn’t desecration, or vandalism, he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for a thought crime.  He is being charged with blasphemy, disguised as “desecration.”  But wait, it gets oh so much worse, thanks to a vigilant organization known as the Bedford County Free Press.  See, while this teenager is being railroaded by the police for taking a picture that offended their invisible sky daddy, the police can not release his name because of his status as a juvenile.  The Bedford County Free Press however, with their pearls firmly clutched and their knickers mega twisted, were offended.  Those folks in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia may be Satan worshiping, feminist, Muslim, liberal, socialist, Nazi, Demon-crats bowing to the altar of secularism, but this is Pennsyl-tucky, the God fearing, Atheist hating, church going, Republican voting, women submitting, gun toting, bathed in the blood of the lamb, Jesus meek and mild, real American part of the state, and they are not going to stand for anyone making it look like their statue of Jesus on his knees is down there for any other reason than prayer, thank you very much!  So they published the 14 year old kids name.

While police released few details and didn’t mention the juvenile’s name, the Bedford County Free Press – an online news organization that shares police reports and gossip – first discussed the case last month, posting the photos and sharing the child’s name and hometown.

With predictable results from the Christian community.  You know, the community who believes in Jesus, the son of God who preached such tactics as “turning the other cheek.”

Hundreds of comments followed, many from outraged county residents. Several posted violent threats. A new post on the charges has drawn more threats.

“Break his arms and legs, teach him some respect,” one read.

Can you feel the Christian love?

The teenager’s juvenile court charge, formally titled “desecration, theft or sale of a venerated object,” is a second-degree misdemeanor in the Pennsylvania Code. The law defines desecration as “defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities” of people who learn of the action.

Did he deface it?  No.  Damage it?  No.  Pollute it?  No.  Physically mistreat it in any way?  NO.  THERE WAS NO CRIME COMMITTED!  (Apologies for the caps.)  He took a picture at a certain angle that made it look like Jesus would have supported marriage equality.

Charges under the 1972 law appear to be rare: The last case to make widespread news in Pennsylvania was in 2010, when a Wilkes-Barre college student urinated on a Christmas Nativity scene. The student in that case pleaded guilty and apologized publicly.

Do you see the major difference in the cases?  Perhaps how the student in the 2010 case actually did something?

Look, I never do this.  I post here for the few that stop by, and enjoy knowing that a small amount of people care enough about what I say to follow my blog.  But this is a local story in a small city, and I am afraid this is going to get passed over by the larger community.  I’m sending it on to other outlets, but please, share this post if you can.  This poor teen is getting a raw deal from an unconstitutional law.

I am a very vocal atheist with beliefs that are on the fringe in some cases.  I believe that teaching children that people who do not follow your exact religion are going to Hell is child abuse.  I’m also of a mind that home schooling your kids so you can teach them made up garbage in place of factual science and history should be illegal.  I think using a 6 year old as a prop at an anti-abortion protest is immoral.  I think the Quiverfull movement and America’s favorite freak show, the Duggars, are harmful to their children, no matter how many smiles they give the cameras or even what they say themselves.  Dissent is not a trait nurtured in families such as those; more like a weed to be pulled as soon as it sprouts.  Yet as harmful as I find much of religion, I do not advocate the vandalism of churches, or the desecration of their symbols.  We as an atheist community are supposed to be above things like that.  We claim we hold our ideas because of evidence and rational thought, and in an open society, our ideas will win.  Vandalism and desecration moves the conversation away from rationality.  Let them lash out and vandalize atheist plaques and displays out of fear.  We have no need to respond in kind.

But this is a kid.  Who took a photo.  That’s it.  The only damage he caused is in the minds of people who viewed the photo and lost their shit.  The statue is still there, longing for a dick to suck deep in prayer.  If he would have vandalized, or damaged in anyway, the statue, then I would back up the charges, though not the Bedford County Free Presses’ irresponsible act of publishing his name.  But he didn’t.  He took a picture.

That is not a crime.